Being Held for Ransom: Safeguards Against Ransomware

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On April 10, 2017, Northwest Rheumatology of Tucson, Arizona announced that some of its computers had been infected by ransomware.  After an investigation, it was discovered that no Personal Health Information (PHI) had been affected.  This was one of three recent incidents.  So, what is ransomware, how do you get it, how do you know if you have it and how do you protect yourself against it?

What is Ransomware? 

Ransomware is defined as “a type of malicious software designed to block access to a computer system until a sum of money is paid.”  Ransomware software can encrypt all your files which will prevent you from opening them or by locking the computer until a password entered, which you only get once you pay a sum of money (usually in an e-currency like Bitcoin) and there is no guarantee that you’ll ever get the password once you pay.

How do you get Ransomware? 

The biggest ways are what we are warned against doing from our IT professionals: email attachments and installing software.  Once they are in a system though, they can spread to other computers like a worm, eventually infecting the whole system.


How do I know if I’m infected and how do I protect myself? 

To help discover if you have been infected, run a fully updated self-updating antivirus software.  For Windows users, a combination of Windows Defender (which is built-into the operating system) and software like Malwarebytes can be very helpful.  Yes, Mac users, the rumor that Macs don’t get viruses is just a myth and Malwarebytes has a Mac version as well.  –

Here are some tips for preventing yourself from being infected:

  • Make sure your operating system is fully updated and patched.
  • Make sure your antivirus software is updated to the latest version and has the latest virus definitions installed and use it regularly
  • Backup your important files regularly so if your system is held for ransom, your files are not.
  • Use cloud storage like OneDrive to save copies of your files.
  • Don’t open attachments in emails.  Use services like OneDrive and Dropbox to share links.  Confirm via telephone too that they did send the attachment.
  • Don’t download and install software on your system unless its from a reputable source and you have investigated it.  Run a quick search about the product and see what others are saying
  • ALWAYS have old hardware (including phones) properly recycled to prevent hackers from gaining access to possible entry ways into your systems.  Contact NAID-Certified SecurShred to find out how safely and securely destroy your hardware.